As we approach the end of 2021, it is a good time to compare where we are today. Last year at his time, Frederick County, along with the rest of our country, was experiencing a health and economic crisis like no other. So many of our neighbors and businesses were hurting and hoping they would just be able to hang on a little longer.

A year later, the situation is better for so many people, but not for our most vulnerable ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households. For them, the barriers to financial stability have only grown.

Before COVID-19, more than 1 in 3 households in Frederick County could not afford basic necessities like housing, transportation, health care, education, and child care. They were one unexpected expense away from spiraling into poverty. Almost two years later, the urgency to provide life-changing programs for these households has increased as they face more challenges and barriers.

At United Way of Frederick County, we recognize the toll these barriers have taken on our ALICE households. To survive, they have gone to food pantries for the first time just to put food on the table or gone without critical necessities, like health care visits, just to stay afloat. Families saving for their first home, a reliable car to get to work, or a better education had to put these dreams on hold as they struggled to pay bills.

In response, United Way of Frederick County has stepped up our mission to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Frederick County, especially those working families who are unable to afford a basic cost of living. We know that too many obstacles exist that prevent working families from financial stability, and it’s our goal to break down those barriers for everyone in our community.

Today, we are launching our 2021 United in Recovery campaign to raise critical funds to bring relief to local ALICE families. We will provide working families with effective Pathways to Financial Stability. We will send free Lyft rides to ALICE families seeking healthcare services, new jobs and training, and free income tax preparation early next year. We will advocate on behalf of ALICE families to bring new opportunities to local working families. We commit to providing our local nonprofit partners with new resources, training, and fundraising opportunities to build their capacities to serve their ALICE clients. We will also keep government, business and nonprofit decision makers informed about local ALICE families and continue to deliver powerful data to help local officials make the most informed decisions.

A group of generous and distinguished contributors are leading the way. Recently, we launched the LEADERS UNITED program which brings together donors who contribute $1,000 or more each year. These donors have banded together earlier than usual this year to lead in the United in Recovery effort. They have issued a community challenge to match their combined contributions of over $20,000 in support of our most vulnerable neighbors.

The Frederick County community is known for its generosity, especially in the midst of crisis. United Way pledges to honor that generosity by being a faithful steward of your trust as we support our ALICE families. Please visit uwfrederick.org/FNP for more information. Thank you!

Keith Harris is chair of the Advocacy Committee for the United Way of Frederick County and Ken Oldham is CEO of the United Way of Frederick County.

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